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Pakistan cracks down on HT

Banned outfit a serious threat to security, analysts say

By Zia Ur Rehman


KARACHI – Pakistani authorities are cracking down on Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) in a bid to disrupt its network.

Even though HT has been illegal in Pakistan since 2003, it is active in big cities and poses a security threat, analysts say.

HT has been active since the 1990s, but it has garnered mainstream media coverage since the arrests of Brig. Ali Khan (May 6) and other four army officers (June 22), all of whom are under investigation for alleged links with the banned militant outfit, military spokesman Maj. Gen Athar Abbas said June 22.

Fears of an uprising

Pakistani intelligence agencies warned in April that HT was plotting to emulate the Egyptian revolution in Pakistan with sympathiser support inside the security forces, media reported, adding the outfit was attempting a “deep infiltration” of the military and academia.

HT’s ideology falls somewhere between political Islamists and militant Islamists, and in Pakistan, it has an anti-democratic outlook, Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank, said.

“HT’s description (on the list of) militant movements and groups in the country remains vague,” Rana told Central Asia Online, suggesting that this vagueness is a major hurdle in assessing the group’s real threat.

HT claims to be non-violent but has been linked with terrorist plots in Pakistan, including an attempt to assassinate then-president Gen. Pervez Musharaf in 2003, he added.

HT, founded in Jerusalem in 1953 by cleric Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, is present in several European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. However, the UK is considered HT’s recruiting centre and its likely headquarters, said Muhammad Naeem, a Karachi-based political analyst.

HT practices extreme secrecy in Pakistan, since it is illegal there, he said. The Interior Ministry proscribed HT November 11, 2003, citing sectarian and terrorist activities.

Few of its leaders are allowed to reveal their identity and the group is organised into five- or six-member cells, Naeem said, adding that some reports suggest that HT has strong links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other militant groups.

Doesn’t conform to stereotypes

HT is dangerous for Pakistan for three main reasons, Rashid Ali, a former HT leader who now works with a London-based anti-extremism organisation called CENTRI, has said.

It justifies the existence of militant groups by accusing the Pakistan government of infidelity, it calls for secession within the military, and there are indications that the group is seeking to take power through a military coup, he said.

HT regularly distributes pamphlets in middle- and upper-middle class residential areas and at educational institutions of large cities, Central Asia Online has learnt.

Passersby can find posters on walls in cities, urging army officers to rise against the “infidel” government and help establish the so-called “caliphate.”

Naveed Butt, Imran Yousafzai and Shehzad Sheikh are key leaders of HT Pakistan. It received financial support during its formation from the UK chapter, according to an October 2010 PIPS study entitled “HT in Pakistan: Discourse and Impact.”

HT on the internet

Since HT is banned in Pakistan, the mainstream media are reluctant to cover its activities, according to the report. HT has responded by turning to the internet, posting various publications, videos and other information on its websites.

“Along with countering HT through human intelligence, security organisations also need to concentrate on modern cyber techniques,” said Rana.

Some cracks have appeared in HT’s unity, though. Maajid Nawaz, a key co-organiser, resigned in May 2007, denouncing militancy. He co-founded Khudi, Pakistan’s first nationwide counter-extremist social movement, and Quillium, a think tank.

“I no longer agreed with the outfit’s attempts to transform Islam into a narrow political ideology,” Nawaz, a Pakistani-Briton, said when he resigned.

Security agencies have begun a crackdown against HT to dismantle its network. Police arrested Yousafzai, the acknowledged deputy spokesman for HT Pakistan, in Islamabad July 12. They arrested Abdul Qayyum, a dental surgeon, July 29 in the Rahimyar Khan District of Punjab, and Hayyan Khan and Usman Haneef July 13 and 21, respectively, in Islamabad. Police called them all leaders or senior members of HT.

HT claims that its more than 1m members are working to restore a caliphate and that Pakistan is one of its top five sources of members.

However, security analysts say the group, though dangerous, has limited influence in Pakistan.

“HT demonstrations usually don’t attract more than 100 people, which clearly shows its role is very limited in Pakistan,” Musa Ali, a journalist based in Karachi, told Central Asia Online.

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Reader Comments

  • Long live the Islamic Caliphate.

    July 12, 2012 @ 07:07:21AM صیاد
  • To have an objective view; one must be aware of the facts. What is the objective of HT? Is their objective of a khilafat from Islam? What is their method of work? when u look at these points, you will c that they are trying to resume Islam as a way of life through discussion of ideas. ideas like Islam is a political ideology that when implemented can liberate the Muslim ummah from the problems it faces today. they are working for change through intellectual discussion, so why ban them?

    September 23, 2011 @ 09:09:00AM yaseen ahmed
  • Hizb ut Tahrir call to the implementation of Islam through the Caliphate. If this is a crime, then I think the above commentators need to question their views?

    September 16, 2011 @ 02:09:00PM Muhammad Khan

    September 7, 2011 @ 05:09:00AM muhammad azhar
  • HT is extremely fundamentalist and moralist in its worldview. As far as they are concerned, anything that departs even slightly from their interpretation of Islam amounts to apostatizing from Islam altogether, while any political struggle that doesn\'t fit into their lens is secretly backed by the West. Although this group consists of highly educated and professional people, they cannot have any influence over people who are also highly informed on matters of politics of Islamic teachings.

    September 6, 2011 @ 05:09:00AM Waqar Ahmed
  • very excellent, Hizb is also trying to make their influence in British Pakistani people in the UK. After every Friday prayers, we see their activists distributing yellow pamphlets urging Muslims to bring Caliphate and other gimmicks. UK government should ban on Hizb Tehrir like Pakistan and Banladesh did.

    September 4, 2011 @ 06:09:00AM Ali Butt
  • Why was the government reluctant to initiate such crackdown against Hizbut Tehrir when it was banned in the country?

    September 2, 2011 @ 09:09:00AM Khurshid
  • Hizbut Tehrir claimed to be very pacific and literary pepole and have to nothing with militancy but they are very dangerous than Taliban as they are theoretically, scientifically and logically exploiting the name of Islam and creating havoc in the country, Recent example of arrests of military officers in Pakistan military is a vivid example of it. Authors have given very good example of Maajid Nawaz and Rashid Ali, former leaders of HT, who abandoned this narrow type of militancy and now working research how to counter these religious fanatics. HT members blames on these two guys that they are funded by UK government to defaming HT which is expression of their fear that people are now becoming aware about their immoral activities

    September 1, 2011 @ 06:09:00AM Arshad Ali